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The most Romantic buildings in Ireland (according to me!)

Bernice Cooke Art Artwork Galway Artist Giclée Prints Inlove Pen and Watercolor prints Romance Ruinlust Valentines Day

In honour of St. Valentine's Day I have compiled a list of the most romantic buildings and places,  - well in my opinion anyways! So without further ado here it is from number ten to number one.

Glenveagh Castle in County Donegal

 10. Glenveagh Castle 

You will find this beautiful castle in Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal.  A copy of a Scottish - style baronial castle.  This picturesque castle holds many strange and fascinating stories.  The lands in the Glenveagh area were purchased by a wealthy Landlord John George Adair and in 1867 construction began, John had a dream of creating a hunting lodge in the highlands of Donegal, but alas he died suddenly in 1885 in America the castle was not complete until 1873.  So his wife Cornelia took over the running of the castle and the estate, ensuring it was improved on over the thirty years.  Following her death in 1921, the castle fell into disrepair and was used as a base during the Irish Civil War.

Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter of Harvard University came to Ireland to study Irish archaeology and culture purchased the castle in 1929, bringing this castle back to life and entertaining aristocratic society but the Professor disappeared mysteriously in 1933 from Inisbofin island. 

Mr Henry McIlhenny of Philadelphia bought the estate in 1937. He was an  Irish American whose Grandfather John McIlhenny grew up in Milford not far from  Glenveagh.  He spent all of his  time restoring the castle and developing its garden  But travelling to and from Ireland and the upkeep of the estate was becoming a strain. In 1975 he agreed the sale of the estate to the Office of Public Works which allowed for a National Park to be established.

At present the castle remains closed to the public but the gardens and park are open to explore.

9. Thoor Ballylee

Yeats Tower Thoor Ballylee, Gort, Co. Galway.

Or Yeats's tower is a magical peaceful place to visit, sitting on the banks of the Streamstown River, five miles from the town of Gort, Co. Galway.  It was a fortified tower built by the de Burgo (Burke) family in the 15th century.  

W.B. Yeats always wanted a place of his own in County Galway and visiting the nearby Coole house he fell in love with the area and in particular Thoor Ballylee.  Many of his most famous poems and writings were inspired by the tower and the area.  After Yeats death his son handed over the tower to the care of Ireland West, and in 1965 it was opened to the public as a museum.

 Well worth a visit for the romantic poets and writers among us.

8. Spanish Point Beach

Spanish Point beach in County Clare

Considering I don't live too far away from the stunning wild Atlantic way it would be a shame not to mention a beach.  One of my favourites has to be Spanish point in County Clare.  Golden sands and blue seas a romantic stroll on this beach is well worth the daytrip. Named because of the Spaniards who were buried here after the wreck of their Armada ships along the coast in 1588. One of the ships was wrecked on the reefs to landward of Mutton Island 3 km offshore. More than a thousand men were lost, and many of their bodies were carried by the tide to Spanish Point.   If you love to surf, go visit for the breakers.

7. Kinnitty Castle

Kinnitty Castle, County Offaly

Rebuilt by the Normans in 1213 and then taken over by Ely O'Carroll, Kinnitty castle sits under the Slieve Bloom mountains.  The present building was originally erected by William O’Carroll on the site of the old Abbey in 1630 confiscated by the English forces in 1641.  1663 Colonel Thomas Winter was granted 2,624 acres by King Charles II for military services rendered.  The Winter family sold the building in 1764 to the Bernard's of County Carlow, then reconstructed by the Pan brothers commissioned by Lady Catherine Hutchinson wife of Colonel Thomas Bernard.  It was set on fire by Republican forces and rebuilt by means of a Government grant in 1927.    It is now a 37 bedroomed luxury hotel that comes with a resident ghost!  A haven of luxury in the heart of County Offaly.

6. Kilronan Castle

Kilronan Castle County Roscommon

I had the pleasure of attending an event at this stunning location a few years ago, it impressed me so much that I celebrated my fortieth birthday there with afternoon tea.  Built by the Tenison family in Tudor - Revival style this beauty echoes stories of ruin and decay.  Originally known as Castle Tenison overlooking Lough Meelagh, it consisted off a magnificent three storeys, remodelled and extended by the family over the years until eventually with the political unrest in Ireland the family chose not to live there anymore and the furniture and contents were auctioned off in the 1930's with the roof removed in 1950.

Falling into decay until all that was left in 2004 was the stone walls.  In 2006 Father and Son Albert and Alan Hanly took on the mammoth task of restoring this once magnificent home into a beautiful luxury hotel and estate.  I can recommend a stroll around this fabulous place and let your budget stretch to some afternoon tea or maybe an overnight stay.

5. Mountshannon

Mountshannon East Clare

You don't have to blow the cash for somewhere romantic.  I just love this place.  Mountshannon is a small village in East Clare, situated on the shores of Lough Derg, with its feet firmly in the ground since the 18th century.  Park at the harbour and take in the beautiful peaceful surrounds, the gentle lapping of the water and you may be lucky enough to spot some eagles.  If you like to walk or hike there is a beautiful wedge tomb known as the Dolmen which you will find above the village with amazing panoramic views of the surrounding counties.  Its my go to place for quiet time and inspiration or just to be.

4. Portumna Forest Park

Portumna Forest Park, County Galway

Only a stone's throw up the road from Mountshannon is the bustling town of Portumna, situated on the banks of the River Shannon.  The Forest park is a must for those who love wildlife and getting out for a ramble among the trees.  Acquired by the state in 1948 it covers over 450 hectares and it was once owned by the Clanricarde family back in its day.  A place that has coniferous and semi - natural woodland, the cute red squirrels, pine martens, fallow deer and the magnificent sea eagles.  On occasion if you listen closely you will hear the cries of buzzards.  There are many walking trails and family friendly routes to choose from, and if you feel up to a run there is a weekly parkrun there at 9.30am every Saturday.  Right on my doorstep it is a fabulous place for a picnic among the trees.

3. Dursey Island

Dursey Island West Cork

Yes I know, we are on an island, but I can't forget the other islands that are scattered around the island of Ireland.  Dursey is an island you won't forget in a hurry.  Access is by Ireland's only cable car and no, you won't be going skiing, just suspended above the Wild Atlantic Way.  And once you can get accustomed to, or over your fear of that, it is well worth the day excursion.  There is a sad history to this island, with a massacre taking place in 1602 when an English army killed around three hundred civilians'.  If you love the sound of the sea, sea mammals and birds this is the place to venture to.  6.5km long and 1.5km wide you can walk the length and breadth of this island, ensuring to bring a picnic, warm clothes and plenty of water.

Yes that is a rare photo of me taking a lunch break looked on by my two dogs.  

2. Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway

Forget Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy, this is Kylemore Abbey located in the heart of Connemara.  And get this -  originally built as a Castle in 1867 as a romantic gift.  Designed by J.F. Fuller for a rich Liverpool merchant Mitchell Henry who they say fell in love with Connemara and its surrounds whilst on his honeymoon with his wife Margaret.  He wanted to create a place that possessed all the latest inventions and modernisation at the time.  The estate includes a large Victorian Walled garden and a beautiful church on the grounds.  Mitchell took great care in the building and developing of this estate, a labour of love and much needed employment for the poor people of the area.

But in In 1874 a few years after the castle was completed, the Henry family departed Kylemore for a holiday in Egypt. Margaret became ill while travelling and despite all efforts, nothing could be done. After two weeks of suffering Margaret died at  45 years old her youngest daughter, Violet, was just two years of age. Mitchell was heartbroken.  Local folklore states that she was embalmed and her body returned to Kylemore where she lay in a glass coffin for members of the family and surrounding community to pay their respects.  Her body then interred in the family mausoleum on the estate.  Mitchell carried on with life without his beloved wife raising their children and looking after the estate. In 1878 a neo Gothic church was erected in the grounds as a beautiful lasting testament of love for his late wife.

1. Muckross House

Muckross House, Killarney, Co. Kerry

I don't know if its the location of this fabulous Tudor style mansion in the centre of a huge park sitting at the shore of Muckross lake that I find so romantic or the fact that the house and surrounds were gifted to the state as a memorial to a much loved wife.  Built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife and artist Mary Balfour Herbert completed in 1843.  

In the 1850's the Herberts spent a lavish amount of money improving the estate and gardens for Queen Victoria's visit, saddling them with debt that saw them selling the house and estate to Lord Ardilaun, who then sold it on to a wealthy Californian magnate, a dowry for his only daughter.  Maud and her husband Arthur Rose Vincent lived there until her death from pneumonia in 1929, and in agreement with Maud's parents they gifted the house and land to the Irish State calling it the ″Bourn-Vincent Memorial Park″,it became the first National Park in Ireland.  Now known as Killarney National Park.  A favorite haunt for nature photographers during rutting season when the largest of the male red deer come head to head locking antlers.

And that sums up my list of top ten romantic destinations.  Please do let me know in the comments if you have any further suggestions or your favourite place as I am expanding my art portfolio for an upcoming exhibition.

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